We had a lesson on manners the other night and talked about what it means to have manners. I believe today that too many parents do not teach their kids even the simplest of manners like saying "please" and "thank you." And that's a shame.
Some years ago, I met with my daughter's middle school teachers for her end-of-the-school-year presentation. They remarked about how refreshing it was to have a student who said "please" and "thank you" and was polite. They said it wasn't often in their classrooms that someone was courteous and they appreciated that about my daughter. It made me feel good, but it also made me feel bad that my daughter's politeness stood out so. Why was it such a big deal that she was polite?
Unfortunately, I've seen the answer far too often. Kids don't say "thank you" when I give them a ride or go out of my way to help them. People aren't generally courteous or polite. People don't send out thank-you cards--well, except for my sister-in-law who sends out thank-you cards for thank-you cards and is the most polite and gracious person I know. My grandma insisted I write thank-you cards--a practice that was common in her day, so I still try to do that even when people tell me it isn't necessary.
As my kids have grown up, I've insisted that they say "thank you" and "please" even refusing to give them something or extend help until they asked politely. My youngest is learning to sign "please" and "thank you."
During our manners lesson we also discussed how the boys need to take extra care to help girls and women. They are to open the doors, pull out chairs, lift packages, and offer help whenever needed. I was happy to hear from my 13 -year-old that her older brother always opens the doors for her when they are together. Yay!
I shared stories of when I was 200 months pregnant with a cartload of kids and another cart filled with food and not one man would open the door for me to exit the grocery store nor would any offer to help me to the car--not even the men who worked at the store. Other times, I'd have to stand on public transportation even though I was visibly as big-as-a-barn because none of the men would give up their seats. I was always so shocked that men could watch me waddle and struggle to do something yet not offer any help.
When we were in Florida I was amazed to see men sit on the buses while older women stood in the aisles clinging to the rails. Once in a while I'd see a man offer his seat, but not often.
I think women have done this to themselves by demanding equal treatment. Instead of demanding better treatment from men, women have asked to be treated like men. There was a time when men honored women and treated them well, but not so much anymore. In fact, when my husband or sons have tried to open doors for women they've been chastised. Perhaps, that it why so many men have learned not to be chivalrous. But I can't help thinking we've lost something along the way. I'm thankful that my husband learned to treat women with respect and kindness and that he continues to be chivalrous. He will always come to the aid of a woman, especially me. He never allows me to carry heavy boxes, he opens my doors, and he treats me with respect. I want my sons to do the same.
This morning, before school, we were reading some stories out of the Friend magazine about people helping others. My 7-year-old shared how she'd helped an older lady. I told her that we should always help others. She replied, "Especially when there are no men around." Guess she got my point :).
Whether it's politically correct or not, I will continue to teach my boys to be chivalrous and I will insist that my children have manners and are polite.